Kashmir: Beyond the Usual Tourist Places

Kashmir is a paradise and everywhere you look, there is a picture postcard image no matter what the season. Yes the security is tight with every 100 mtrs guarded by a soldier, but that’s how the Army and BSF are making it safe for you to travel to this magical land. However beyond the usual places like Pahalgam, Sonamarg and the snowy slopes of Gulmarg, lies the real Kashmir, still untouched and a heaven in its true sense.

However beyond the usual places like Pahalgam, Sonamarg and the snowy slopes of Gulmarg, lies the real Kashmir, still untouched and a heaven in its true sense.

Yusmarg
47 Kms from Srinagar, Badgam District

Yusmarg is the gateway to the enchanting Kashmir Valley and is a land of grassy pastures, dense pine forests with a beautiful backdrop of snow-clad mountain range.

Yusmarg
Yusmarg, Image Copyright @ Lothar Seifert
Dudh Ganga at Yusmarg, Image Copyright @JKTourism
Dudh Ganga at Yusmarg, Image Copyright @JKTourism

An idyllic day trip for all travellers, Yusmarg is aptly compared to the European Alps. The word ‘Yus’ is a short form of Youza or Jesus and ‘Marg’ means a meadow, so according to legends, it is believed that Jesus passed through this valley while travelling into Kashmir and since then it was named ‘Yusmarg’. The natural slopes of Yousmarg offer skiing opportunities to ski experts across the globe.

Lothar SeifertYusmarg

Visit the Sunset Peak and the Tatakooti Peak for a beautiful sunset.

Festivals: The Navratri festival of Yusmarg region is quite popular for the pilgrims while the Babehali’s Chhinjh is an annual fair where wrestling competitions enthrall locals and tourists alike.

Stay Options: JKTDC Tourist Bungalows & Hutments are the only option for stay and offers good accommodation along with the necessary facilities. Click Here for Booking

JK Tourism Guest House at Yusmarg
JK Tourism Guest House at Yusmarg

What to expect: Go horse riding or take a long idle walk. Spend some quiet time near the Dudh Ganga and play in the cool sparkling water.

What to Eat: JKTDC Restaurant near the Cottages offers all type of continental and Indian food at decent prices. Local shacks provide snacks and quick meals during the daytime.

Trekking:
Nilnag Lake
: A short 4 km trek leads you to this pristine lake located amidst pine trees.Sang-e-Safed, a frozen lake is quite unique as most of the lake is frozen throughout the year. It’s a 10 Km trek and takes a full day trek, so the trekkers are advised to carry tents along with food & water as during the trek the weather at high altitude changes frequently. Assistance of a guide is advisable. Another popular trek is to

Another popular trek is to Tosa Maidan, a large meadow used for cattle grazing by nomads. It is that same battleground where Maharaja Ranjit Singh was defeated by Mohammad Azim Khan in 1814. This area is connected through rough routes to places like Gulmarg and Poonch. The region is full of springs and Khag is the most famous one..

Doodhpathri

42 Kms from Srinagar (South West of Srinagar, in Badgam District)

It is pronounced Dwadhpathri locally and is a limitless meadow with a perfect setting with a river flowing, lush greens around, lofty hills and has pine-dotted jungles that soothes your senses and provides a perfect environ to refresh you.

Green meadows of Doodhpathri
Green meadows of Doodhpathri

Doodhpathri has been recognized as an upcoming Tourist Destination by the State Tourism Department and consists of twin pastures namely Parhacemaidan and Doodhpathri. Two rivers, Shaliganga and Sokhnag, flow on either sides of the pastures making this place a must visit on your trip to Kashmir.

JK Tourism Huts at Doodhpathri
JK Tourism Huts at Doodhpathri

Kokernag

Koker means ‘fowl’ and Nag means ‘serpent’ – Kokernag lies at a distance of 15 kms from the garden of Achabal and about 10 kms from Dakshum and is part of Bringhi Valley. It features beautifully maintained and picturesque gardens. 

At a height of 2000 mtrs, Kokernag spring gushes out of the base of a thickly wooded hill from where it divides into channels, resembling a claw-foot of a hen. It is believed that the spring water of Kokernag known as Papashudan Nad has effective healing effects for many types of ailments.

Beautiful Kokernag Image Copyright@sandeepachetan.com

Beautiful Kokernag Image Copyright@sandeepachetan.com

The place has the largest freshwater springs in Kashmir containing a variety of Trout species.

Festivals: Rouf and Hafiza are festivals known for their dance performance and is especially performed on festive occasions such as Eid or Harvest season and weddings. Bacha Nagma is quite popular too when young kids create a magical evening with the musical instruments like Shehnai, Rabab, Tumbaknari, Dholak and Sarangi.

Stay Options: Hotel Alpine, a JKTDC hotel is ideal for stay and offers well-furnished cottages and rooms and is located right on the main road.

Tangmarg
38 km from Srinagar and 14 Kms before Gulmarg

Tangmarg: located  on your way to Gulmarg, Tangmarg lies at the foot of the Pir Panjal range and is gifted with natural beauty and has tourist spots like Ferozpore Nallah, Waters Meet and Ziarat of Baba Reshi in the vicinity. The place is popular for handicraft works and is also famous for its cherries, strawberries, walnuts and apples.

To Gulmarg, there are two routes from Tangmarg. One is a steep footpath while the other is a winding sealed road. Tangmarg is also the stop where vehicles stop to get chained onto tyres during winters.

Eating Options at Gulmarg: Bakshi  and Global Dhabas are good. For fine dining ‘Highlands Park’ and ‘The Khyber’ offers great views and amazing atmosphere.

Stay Options at Gulmarg: At Gulmarg the accommodation options are quite expensive but following hotels are reasonable and good on pocket:

  • JKTDC’s cottages Tel: 01954-254424, 254507; Tariff: Rs 4,000-15,000.
  • Private cottages Tariff: Rs 1,800-3,500 for a room; booking can be done via Kashmir Alpine Ski Shop Tel: 01954-01954-254638; Mobile: 09419525606
Tangmarg in Winters
Tangmarg in Winters

Eating Options at Tangmarg: Downhill Restaurant, part of Downhill Hotel. A few doors down, there’s a Café Coffee Day. Other good options are the Malik Dilbar Restaurant, Hotel Alpine’s Zaiqa Restaurant and the vegetarian Jain Restaurant.

Stay Options at Tangmarg: 

  • JKTDC’s Hotel Alpine Mobile: 09419046044; Tariff: Rs 2,000-5,000.
  • Abdulla Greenz Hotel & Restaurant Tel: 01954-254411; Mobile: 09419181023; Tariff: Rs 2,500-3,000 on the Narbal-Tangmarg Road.
  • Downhill Hotel & Restaurant Tel: 01954-254516, 254433; Tariff: Rs 3,200 on the Narbal-Tangmarg Road.
  • Pine View Hotel & Restaurant Mobile: 09622579291, 09906319555; Tariff: Rs 3,000 on the Narbal-Tangmarg Road.
  • Mahajan Hotel & Restaurant Mobile: 09419413099; Tariff: Rs 2,000.

Drung
3 Kms from Tangmarg, enroute Gulmarg

Drung is a new tourist spot in Tangmarg which is currently being promoted for trout fishing and rock climbing and is fast gaining popularity for those looking to spend some quiet time rather than being surrounded by tourists. You can take a refreshing dip in the icy water stream of Drung River or go for long relaxing walks in the dense pine forests. It’s still unspoilt and till now no artificial additions or constructions have altered it in any way, preserving the beauty of this place.

Drang Stream
Drang Stream

For my ski freaks please visit this awesome blog that highlights the details of skiing in Gulmarg & surrounds with amazing pictures! http://www.epicski.com/t/124972/gulmarg-2014-trip-report/30

Alpather Lake
13 Kms from Gulmarg

Located at a height of 3840 m, the place offers an enthralling picturesque view surrounded by a large meadow, clear blue waters of the lake, all surrounded by the Apharwat Peak.

Alpather Lake
Alpather Lake

The Alpather Lake is located 13 kms from Gulmarg and can be reached on foot and a pony ride from Gulmarg. It is recommended to plan a trip to the lake from stage 2 of the Gulmarg Gondola, as from here is it only 3 kms away. Not sure but I heard you need a permit to visit the place now. Kindly connect with the J & K Tourism department for more details.

Best time to visit: The best time to visit Alpather Lake is during the summer months from May till September. The lake is frozen in winter months from November till February.

During summers, you can also combine this trip along with a trip to Khilanmarg (that lies between the 2 stages of Gondola and is a vast plain studded with flower-covered meadows (Stage 2 of Gondola (INR 500 per person), Kongdori and Seven Springs (Stage 1 of Gondola (200 INR per person), that can only be reached via a pony ride.

Aharbal Waterfall
Offbeat: 75 Kms from Srinagar

About 75 Kms from Srinagar and 20 Km off Shopian (known for its apple orchards) is a secluded tourist spot, popular for its beautiful waterfall.  It’s a delight to see the waterfall surrounded by huge rocks amidst pine forests and mountains. The waterfall is now baricaded for safety but is worth a visit.

To reach the waterfall, be prepared to walk a few steps and then walk some more. Not recommended for senior citizens.

Aharbal Waterfall, Image Copyright @trodly.com
Aharbal Waterfall, Image Copyright @trodly.com
Aharbal Waterfall by Avijit Kohli
Aharbal Waterfall by Avijit Kohli

There are few lush meadows at Aharbal and one among them called Kungawatan is very popular. Aharbal can be reached either taking the Pulwama Shopian road or taking the Anantnag road.

Other Place to Visit: KousarNag: 3 to 4 hours simple trek among meadows along the Pir Panjal valley will bring you to this beautiful and heavenly place. It’s a huge spring surrounded by tall mountains and the place remains tranquil and serene. A must see if you can walk that much. Alternately you could take a pony ride to that place. Around 2 hours by pony.

Place to Stay: There is a well constructed DAK bunglow with sparsely furnished but clean rooms run by JKTDC.

Naranag
Offbeat: 50 Kms from Srinagar

Just 50 Kms from Srinagar takes you to Naranag, a hidden location that has the magnificent Gangabal lake and remains of an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva built using large granite blocks.

Ruins of an Ancient Shiva Temple
Ruins of an Ancient Shiva Temple
naranag2
The Glacier fed stream flowing at Naranag

Gangabal Lake and stream is fed by the glaciers and Pir Panjal mountain range. It is a wonderful campsite and has an inexpensive hotel to cater for food and lodging if required.

Stay options at Naranag:

  • Gulshan Lodge Mobile: 09697761389; Tariff: Rs 1,000 in Naranag.
  • Mohammed Aslam’s Guest House Mobile: 09697560626, 09858339208; Tariff: Rs 600-800 in Naranag.

Verinag

Located 80 kms from Srinagar, Verinag is located ahead of Kokernag and features springs and beautiful gardens. It’s more like a picnic spot and frequented by the locals.

Verinag, Image Copyright @trekhub.in
Verinag, Image Copyright @trekhub.in

Verinag is more popular for species of trout ‘Rainbow Trout’ that flourishes the dark blue water of the spring here. It’s interesting to know that plenty of legends associated with the spring are that its unfathomable and possess special powers.

Daksum

Situated 85 Kms from Srinagar, Daksum lies in the proximity of Achabal Garden and is easily accessible from there. and stands at an altitude of 2438 m in a densely forested gorge, making it a beautiful place to be.

To reach: via Pampore, Khanabal, Anantnag, Achabal, Kokernag and Vailoo

Lush greenery at Daksum. Image Copyright@go2kashmir.com
Lush greenery at Daksum. Image Copyright@go2kashmir.com
Serene Daksum Image Copyright@go2kashmir.com
Serene Daksum Image Copyright@go2kashmir.com

It is a green paradise, offering a picture-perfect landscape, Daksum offers adventure activities that include angling and trekking. Affluent with lush meadows, Daksum is a quaint little meadow and quite popular for its trout fishing, making it an angler’s paradise.

Where to Stay: J & K Tourism dept. has good accomodation and would soon open up huts.
Mobile: 09469515050, 09596369601
Tariff: Starting 1,000 INR

Just below the JKTDC bungalow is the access point to the Brengi River. Cross over and spend time in the forest. If you walk downstream instead, you’ll reach Dessu Village after a few minutes. Just below Dessu, the Mathar Nallah joins the Brengi.

There’s also a sheep breeding farm and you can also visit Rajparian Wildlife Sanctuary.

For the Adventurous:  A 32-km drive on NH1B takes you to Sinthan Top, the 12,450-ft-high pass that connects the Kashmir Valley and the Kishtwar region. Sinthan Top has snow from November till early July and is open for traffic from April till snowfall begins.

Sinthan Top View, Image Copyright @panoramio.com
Sinthan Top View, Image Copyright @panoramio.com

About 10 km from Daksum on the way to Sinthan is a 3-km-long trekking trail to the Girsar Spring, whose waters also feed the Brengi River at Daksum. Girsar Lake lies in the vicinity of Sinthan top. one needs to Trek for nearly 1.5 hrs to reach the lake. it lies at an altitude of 3735m.

Aarshan is a meadow right on the roadside, 21 km from Daksum towards Sinthan as you go above pine country.

“Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast.” If there is ever a heaven on earth, it is here, it is here it is here. The beauty of Kashmir is truly unparalleled.

Saving the best for the last…

Chatpal
Offbeat and Still lesser known Spot

Chatpal is the fairytale land located at a 3 hours drive from Srinagar and is in the Anantnag district of Jammu & kashmir. It is an untouched natural beauty surrounded with lush green dense forest, flowing streams and clear blue sky, with the background of mountains.

Chatpal View, Image Copyright @Chetan Karkhanis
Chatpal View, Image Copyright @Chetan Karkhanis

You are sure to fall in love with place. Kokernag lies at a distance of 39 kms and can be visited on a day trip. Although I doubt anyone would want to leave Chatpal! Local people are friendly and helpful. They go by their daily routine as you explore Chatpal and get mesmerised with its beauty.

Beautiful stream at Chatpal, Image Copyright @Chetan Karkhanis
Beautiful stream at Chatpal, Image Copyright @Chetan Karkhanis

How to reach: You need to drive through the Anantnag-Chitergul road. A local shared jeep from Achabal will take you to Chitergul. From here you need to hire a special jeep for Chatpal.

Where to stay: A fully furnished tourist bungalow maintained by Jammu and Kashmir government is the best option. Please contact for prior booking.

Shopping at Kashmir

  • Buy Saffron from Pampore (12 Kms from Srinagar). Saffrom flower season is between Oct-Nov when both sides of the road blooms in lavender color and looks beautiful!
    Note: Best Quality Kashmiri Saffron is priced somewhere between 70,000 – 90,000 per kg
  • Visit Awantipur for getting the best Cricket bats that are made from Willow trees. Sangam Village has the best variety and has been making and exporting these globally.
  • Shop for Willow baskets that are trendy and so practical for keeping stuff.
  • Visit Zainakadal Market (old Kashmir) for buying a range of spices, copperware and other exotic stuff including fabrics. Ask your hotel to arrange for a local guide as you may get lost in the lanes.
  • For dry fruits including Pine nuts & Walnuts, Gulab Jal and dried rose petals, go to Kukar Bazaar.
  • Get a tailor-made Pheran/Phirinirin – a long tweed garment that Kashmiri’s wear over their regular clothes to stay warm. Available in attractive colors this is a must buy while in Kashmir.
  • Buy Noon Chai, a salty green tea that kashmiri’s love. And yes its tasty!
  • Cottage Industries Emporium offers authentic and well priced crafts including carpets, lac products, Silverware etc.

So next time you visit Kashmir, do take a shikhara ride and then plan a trip to explore the hidden treasures of the Kashmir valley.

Shikara Ride at Dal Lake
Shikara Ride at Dal Lake

Best Houseboats to Stay

While there are plenty of beautiful and decorative Houseboats to choose from both at Dal Lake and Nagin lake, the following ones are visitors top choices:

Budget Ones

Chicago Houseboats: is owned and operated by Khar famly for 4 generations and provide you a warm homely stay. The houseboat has a beautiful lakeside deck. Inside the furnishings include embroidered native rugs and fabrics, and solidly comfortable Victorian and Edwardian furniture. They make delicious english breakfasts as well! These guys also offers great travel packages to visit Kashmir and Ladakh. Tariffs: 1800 – 3300 INR and if you want the whole place just for yourself, then the tariff is 5000 INR

Moonshine Houseboats: Recognized by J & K Department of Tourism and managed for over 4 generations, these houseboats are located on Nagin Lake and offers privacy along with all sorts of modern conveniences. Tariffs: 2000 INR onwards

New Sherin Houseboats: Quite a large boat, it is adorned with exquisite carvings and walnut furniture and is located on Dal Lake. These guys also offer you a free airport transfer and has been considered as one of the best Houseboats stay by CNN Travel too. Tariffs: 2700 INR Onwards for a Double Room and 4650 for stay + Meals PackageWelcomHeritage Gurkha Houseboats, Nagin Lake, KashmirWelcomHeritage Gurkha Houseboats, Nagin Lake, Kashmir

Luxury/Medium
WelcomHeritage Gurkha Houseboat, Srinagar:
  Experience the Kashmiri life as the locals paddle through the Nagin Lake to sell fresh produce, immerse yourself in the peaceful calm of the lake waters and enjoy  homely Kashmiri meals. Tariffs: 10000 onwards

Inside View of the WelcomHeritage Gurkha Houseboats, Nagin Lake Kashmir
Inside View of the WelcomHeritage Gurkha Houseboats, Nagin Lake Kashmir
Butts Clermont Houseboat, Dal Lake Kashmir
Butts Clermont Houseboat, Dal Lake Kashmir

Butt’s Clermont Houseboats: These are moored on the western shores of Dal Lake beside an old Mughal Garden and just a few steps away from Naseem Bagh which has Chinar Trees that are more than 400 years old. The stay is preferred for Honeymooners or someone looking for some quiet time alone. The Houseboats also give you amazing views of the Dal Lake and snow-covered peaks. Tariffs: 13000-20000 INR and also offers amazing offers.

Important Links

Jammu & Kashmir official Tourism Site: www.jktourism.org

J & K Tourism Development Corporation Accommodation: www.jktdc.co.in/hotels.php

For Fishing License: Department of Fisheries in Srinagar (Website: www.jkfisheries.in)

srinagarmap1

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3 Comments

    1. Byfar the best houseboat in kashmir is SUKOON, http://www.sukoonkashmir.com, it is the only houseboat which does not dispose waste in the lake, plastic is banned, for 5 bedrooms they have 12 staff, free wifi and world classic sundek and bathrooms. Excellent food and attention to detail.

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